by Sam Ryerson
In early spring in southern New Mexico, our cattle feed on much more than grass, which is just now starting to green up. Now, flowering annual forbs we might otherwise call weeds and budding oak leaves provide important protein sources for the mother cows. The young calves learn to eat these same plants with their mothers, and find them again on their own as yearlings. The cattle grow and gain from these plants, but they’re dangerous this time of year and after a hard, late frost can accumulate lethal levels of toxins.
This spring, as I’ve been recognizing that grass is not everything for our cattle, I’ve been realizing that the term “grassfed” itself does not completely define our work or goals. Our work is more complicated than grazing grass. Our work as livestock producers, graziers, and SWGLA members involves a lot of weeds and brush. In the Southwest, the weeds and brush – the diversity of forage and browse – make our rangelands and range-based grazing enterprises more resilient, and also more challenging to fit into conventional notions of grassfed production systems. These are challenges SWGLA is dedicated to resolving.
The SWGLA Board met in March in Corrales to talk about our goals and plans and challenges for the year. We’re excited about the programs we have in store, including a new website designed by our board member Stephanie Cameron with an interactive, searchable producer directory. Nathan Burk, another board member, is leading the development of a series of webinars and workshops for producers on all facets of grassfed livestock production and marketing. In general, we’re focusing on building connections between livestock producers and consumers, celebrating the diversity of our resources, and turning our challenges into opportunities.
I hope you’ll join us.
SWGLA Board President